Julio Suárez and Alexandr Fier prevail at GM Tournament in La Palma

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
12/9/2020 – Four parallel tournaments were organized at La Palma, the most north-westerly island of the Canary Islands, Spain. Besides a Scheveningen match in which five Spanish players are facing a multinational squad, three 10-player single round robin tournaments took place, with local talents looking to get GM, IM and WGM norms. The strongest of these events was won by IM Julio Suárez (pictured), who tied atop the standings table with Alexandr Fier on 6/9 and got first place on tiebreaks. | Photos: Spanish Chess Federation (FEDA)

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Suárez gets a grandmaster norm

There were big rating favourites both in the IM and the WGM tournaments, while the strongest, the GM event, did not have a player clearly above the rest rating-wise. Noël Studer from Switzerland was the top seed, but losses in rounds 1, 5 and 6 left him out of the podium with a 5/9 score. 

It was second seed Alexandr Fier, from Brazil, who ended up atop the standings tied with IM Julio Suárez Gómez — the latter obtained a grandmaster norm. The young player from Galicia won four games and only lost against Vladislav Nevednichy to get as many points as Fier — he also had a better second tiebreaker (the first one, direct confrontation, was tied as they drew their game).

IM Jesús Martín Duque and multiple Spanish women’s champion Sabrina Vega Gutiérrez finished a half point behind the leaders. It was a brilliant performance for the 2368-rated Vega, who kicked off with three consecutive wins and only drew once on her way to a 2565 tournament performance rating.

Sabrina Vega

Sabrina Vega

Meanwhile, Tomás Sosa from Argentina and Irina Bulmaga from Romania arrived in the Canary Islands as the clear favourites in the IM and the WGM events respectively, and they both delivered. While Sosa finished the 9-round tournament with 7½ points, leaving second-placed Cristian Hernández from Colombia 1½ points behind, Bulmaga’s performance was nothing short of perfect, as she defeated all nine of her opponents in brilliant fashion.

Suárez and Fier come back from behind

Coincidentally, both players that ended the GM tournament tied atop the standings table started things off with a loss. While Fier immediately bounced back, Suárez first drew and then had a three-game winning streak to get in the fight for first place. The second of these three wins came against Vega, who was already in trouble when she entered an unfavourable tactical sequence:


Black has a worse structure and will have trouble finding a way to coordinate her pieces from this position, but after White’s break with 22.e4 the best way to proceed was to simply capture with 22....fxe4, and after 23.Qxe4 she would have 23...a4 looking to untangle a bit on the queenside.

Instead, there followed 22...N7b6 attacking the queen, when White has the strong 23.exd5:


23...Nxc4 would have at least justified Black’s previous move, albeit the position is still lost after 24.dxc6 Qxc6 25.bxc4. Vega played 23...exd5 and White was simply a piece up after 24.Qc2.

The Spanish women’s champion came from beating Fier in the previous round, leaving the second seed needing to mount a comeback after starting the event with 1/3. The Brazilian was up to the task, as he won his next four games.

Before the final round, Fier and Suárez both had 5½ points and were paired up against each other in a showdown for tournament victory. Fier had the white pieces and could not convert a bishop v knight endgame a pawn to the good. The draw was signed after 71 moves.

Alexandr Fier, Julio Suárez

Alexandr Fier vs. Julio Suárez

Final standings - GM Tournament


All games - GM Tournament


Sosa and Bulmaga dominate

As mentioned above, the remaining two events had a clear rating favourite in the lineup. In the IM tournament, Argentine Tomás Sosa had an 85-point rating advantage over second seed Thal Abergel from France. Finding yourself in this situation is not easy at all, as you need to “defend” your rating against ambitious up-and-coming players.

Sosa did a great job, finishing the tournament with four consecutive wins to get clear first place on 7½ out of 9.

Tomás Sosa

Tomás Sosa

All games - IM Tournament


See the final standings of the event here

Even more impressive was Romanian Irina Bulmaga in the WGM event. Bulmaga, who recently wrote a piece for ChessBase recounting how the pandemic affected her as a professional chess player, scored a perfect 9/9 against a field with a 2203 rating average!

Irina Bulmaga

Irina Bulmaga

All games - WGM Tournament


See the final standings of the event here


Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.


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